Dead Before Dawn

Yesterday, I watched the following trailer:

I’m old enough to have seen the original at the cinema, as it happens. Back then, top billing went to a young buck called Kiefer Sutherland (whatever happened to him?) yet the film became notorious for him creating a relationship with co-star Julia Roberts, right up until she left him (less than a week before they were due to be married, if memory serves.) The original is, quite honestly, an extremely watchable and decent film. Long before the days of CGI, it relied on conventional shocks and clever camerawork to do the task I’m now seeing technology take over, and it makes me sad. Somehow between 1990 and here it isn’t just being young and edgy that has radically altered. I know better than to judge anything based solely on a trailer but really, honestly, this does not bode well. If I hadn’t loved and devoured the original so many times I know it by heart, maybe that would make a difference…

The 1974 version of this movie was a Christmas staple for as long as I can remember as a child. That means that I watched it once to learn the murderer, then a couple more times to get the details straight, before doing something else. Certain narratives will support multiple views: Christie’s whodunnits, not so much. In this case I briefly considered seeing the remake simply for Kenneth Branagh’s moustache, but let’s be honest, the plot’s hardly going to be a surprise… in that regard, it’ll have a lot in common with Flatliners. Yet, for the best part of four decades, I have willingly thrown money at a franchise which effectively tells the same story every 2-3 years, the only major difference being the man I have to believe is the major protagonist.

007 may hold the answer to my personal dilemma of ‘when is a remake just not worth the effort?’ I accepted Skyfall as a decent ‘episode’ of this current ‘series’ of the Bond ‘journey’ but SPECTRE was a step too far. Wonder Woman’s been around for DECADES, and yet the most current iteration of ‘origin story’ I’ll be able to watch multiple times and not get bored of. Why am I prepared to let some narratives get rehashed a bazillion times (Star Wars) but would rather others get left well alone (Blade Runner) could be personal preference, pure and simple. However, I think it is 007’s intractability that illuminates a deeper truth: Flatliners and Murder on the Orient Express aren’t simply reboots, but re-imaginations more than willing to embrace the changing face of modern audiences. Sure, they could cast a female Bond, but it won’t happen. The canon of the concept will only support a particular and fairly intractable demographic, and that appears as unchangeable as Daniel Craig’s current dislike of the franchise at present.

Flatliners, this time around, has a female lead protagonist, and two more women in the headline group of actors. MotAE has an impressively multicultural ensemble, neither ageist or sexist in their placement. Effectively these old stories can be made new not simply by effects but with smart casting choices. Bond… well, he’ll always be Bond, sexism and misogyny watered down only by a leading man who knows only too well how old and restrictive the source material has been. Here’s the problem for me: I’d love a great story that looks amazing, and is close to an original concept as possible. I know I won’t get that in modern film-making: Arrival, for instance (which I love) is effectively Interstellar with a differing plot structure. I grasp, as an adult and ex-film student, the chance for ingenuity and quirkiness doesn’t come around that often, and if you want to make money, recycling is your best bet. The problem then comes with what you pick to do that with, and then how it is marketed. It’s nearly 30 years since Flatliners, I don’t blame them for the reboot. I will hold them to account though if the CGI ruins what was a really great concept without.

Some remakes are best just left alone. I think we can all agree that there are concepts that worked better in the decades they were originally created (looking at you, St Trinians) whereas other ideas flourished and became phenomena hand in hand with the CGI that evolved with them (Harry Potter is a perfect example of this, more on which on Friday.) In between, there are the films that you see and think ‘you just green-lit this to make some quick cash, didn’t you?’ I’ll go see Flatliners in the cinema, just to see how much of a good/bad job gets done on rehashing the original, but even Branagh’s moustache won’t be enough, in the final analysis to make me part with cash. Sometimes, once is enough, and the geek in me has no real desire to compare and contrast reboots for decades to come. I’ll leave that to someone with more fans and a bigger You Tube subscriber base.

I’ll be here, praying the Bond franchise I’d love rebooted ends up doing it right.

Not A Job

I should have been out today, eating lunch with a dear friend, but instead the bug my daughter bought back from Paris crit me for 31728103. I don’t remember the last time I succumbed like this either, which will be a lot to do with the late week stress induced by other people that I should know better than to be sucked in by. However, now I have drugs and honey/lemon plus tissues, I think I can try upright for a while. At the end of the oddest of weeks for quite some time, it is apposite to reflect on how the World affects us in ways I suspect are often never considered at the time.

This, I think, is the root of the issues over the last week. When you have no control over the world around you, there’s increasing temptation to micro-manage your own life. In my case, this used to result in a whole lot of additional grief: I only have to look back at the meltdown that happened with Brexit to understand how aggrieved and isolated that event made me feel. Learning that other people don’t see the World the way you do, when you were convinced a common bond was shared, can be quite depressing to boot. Ultimately there is a choice: pick your friends with care, and make sure that when you do reach out to help someone you’re aware of what that means long term. Yeah, you can have a ton of Internet Friends too: they still count, but if that’s the case do your homework. When things come down to the wire, knowing who is there for you matters as much as it would do in reality.

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What is a surprise, and continues to be so, is the way people ‘forget’ the World is listening. The person who popped the full-blown conspiracy theory into my feed is still on mute, I’ll admit, because there’s still a bit of uncertainty how to deal with such an admission. If I’m feeling brave I’ll try and communicate further when I think someone maybe threw a curve into my life, but doing that can be as dangerous as smoking out a bees nest. Right now, it’s about 50/50 you’ll end up with some kind of drama, depending on the person you’re dealing with. It also has a lot to do with why the person chose to follow you in the first place. There are agendas at play all over the shop, the trick is trying to keep track of everybody’s particular interests.

It is on days like today when I’m sick that it is important to remind myself that this is not a job, and I can step back. However, the mental benefits of writing all this shit down has now outweighed the physical benefits of lying down and making ‘I’m ill, look after me’ noises, and that is a really significant step in what I consider to be the right direction. Yes, I will go and have a sleep after this because I managed five hours overnight, but it was important to write everything that I have today, because mental health is always an issue. There are a lot of people struggling right now too: you’re not alone, but the answer is not to lash out at other people or try and drag them down with negativity. As I stated on the Other Blog, that doesn’t help anyone, yet still that’s the way the Internet’s training a section of the population to react to trauma. If you’re upset? Yeah, go make a stand on Social media, because that’s a sure fire way to find people to agree with you.

This whole thing has become an exercise in validation, when it should be more about co-operation and understanding. Being right is not the answer, and that’s a lesson I know for damn sure I still need help to learn for myself. However, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go and lie down, as I’ve assuaged the mental for another day.

Someone please pass the tissues.

Where I Stood

The Bechdel Test, if you are not already aware of it, is quite significant for many women in popular culture. In its simplest form? Bechdel ‘asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added.’ Here, it transpires, is one the simplest forms of judging gender equality, and it works. When creating your work of written/spoken art, whatever it might be, giving your characters something to do other than fret about the opposite sex isn’t just sensible, it is often essential if you can’t write women well to begin with. Because good stories, despite what Black Lace might tell you, aren’t just about sex. Writing as I am right now with someone else’s characters as inspiration, it occurs to me that the current crop of Bond women are actually quite tough. However, there aren’t ever two Bond girls ever in a room at the same time, and if there were? Well, DUH, all they’re gonna talk about is how great Bond was in bed before (presumably) having a cat fight with pillows in slow motion and soft focus.

Actually, that’s probably not far off the truth in the Universe anyway.

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It took half a century for Bond to kop off with a woman effectively his own age. Expecting the franchise to come up with empowering female storylines is not exactly high on the priority list, but it would be a lie to try and pretend there wasn’t at least some effort made in Spectre. Moneypenny’s got a guy in bed, for starters, when Bond phones in from Rome for intelligence, thought I’d have given Bond more marks for interrupting her on the job. There’s at least a concessionary nod here to a real world and actual lives outside of Whitehall. But when it’s all but brief and you feel like only lip service is being offered? That’s where I am, but I’m in something of a quandary right now, because my female protagonist’s having quite a hard time reconciling her professional and personal attachments to 007. Having relationships isn’t wrong or bad, without them the human race ceases to exist. However, when you find your character unable to separate the professional and the personal and increasingly not worrying about consequence?

Does it matter what truly motivates you to be what you are?

This song has become quite a significant part of my process as a result, mostly because of the following section of lyrics:

And I won’t be far from where you are if ever you should call
You meant more to me than anyone I ever loved at all
But you taught me how to trust myself and so I say to you
This is what I have to do

These four lines are at the crux of what I’m trying to explain: you can care deeply and emotionally about someone, yet not be with them. A person can understand that they’re in love with someone else and yet know that this is not what is required to either survive and progress. Popular culture pushes onto us the notion that relationships are only worthwhile if they come with a satisfactory and (presumably) long-term conclusion, but that’s not true at all. Sometimes, things have to fail so you can get better. More often than not, sacrifices need to be made in order to expedite the progression of your existence. Except, in the world of Bond, there is rarely (if ever) an exploration of this. Since Casino Royale there has, at the franchise’s core, been at least some attempt to address this shortfall, and when you see Bond locate Vesper Lynd’s interrogation tape from L’Americaine in Spectre? That story is at an end. This 007 finally closes that chapter of his life and moves on.

The fact this is never discussed further and simply implied makes me sad beyond words.

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So here I am, making sure that my heroine doesn’t simply grasp her feelings, but she actually understands and learns from them. It’s a tough ask to stretch it out over an extended narrative, but I have the flashpoints all mapped out. I’ve also very deliberately included as little Bond as I can conceivably get away with, because to make this work he can’t be the motivation in the frame. The problem with an all-encompassing ‘hero’ is that sometimes, you don’t want to know their story. Spectre tries and largely fails to give depth to a world that has never been about everybody, because that’s not how Fleming wrote 007. When the franchise reboots (and I am confident you’ll hear something by the end of the year on that front) I can only hope that maybe, just maybe, the success of all these ‘extended Universe’ outings in cinemas will make the Eon people consider that perhaps it is time to not just make Bond all there is to see. However, why I watch a Bond movie is a long way from what I’d consider to be the ‘target’ audience.

In the meantime? Wish fulfilment will have to do.